dropbear find chosen family within the expansive ‘gaze of debut EP ‘Spiralized’
Boston alt-rock band deliver a decisive first record on Friday, July 22
‘Tapping into the alt-rawk fuzz of the ‘90s, Boston’s dropbear exude an enchanting kind of aura’ - Rock And Roll Fables
Photo courtesy of dropbear
BOSTON, MA [July 22, 2022] – The various places and spaces where the members of dropbear met in recent years are a solid representative introduction to the Boston alt-rock band: On the floor of a local Cave In show, through musician network groups on the internet, and in the back of restaurant kitchens, where new co-workers quickly realized they had not only mutual friends, but also a shared love of similar music. The members of dropbear (band name stylized in all lower case, displayed as one word) like to playfully point out that they all probably danced together in the pit at shows before crystallizing as a quintet.
Now that dropbear are set to make their arrival with their first batch of music, they’re likely to inspire others to come together in the front of the stage at shows as well. Fresh off the well-received release of lead single “Bystander” last month – which earned widespread radio attention (DKFM, Code Zero, Your First Listen) and blog praise from the likes of Turn Up The Volume, Screaming For Years, If It’s Too Loud, Rock And Roll Fables, and others – the alternative rock and nu-gaze quintet are set to make a more voluminous and dedicated noise with debut EP Spiralized.
“This record is really the first iteration [of] our sound,” says guitarist Matt Tillman. “These songs offer a glimpse into what future sounds are to come. There were no specific directives with this record. We wanted to shred and gaze at the same time which is hard to do, and as we progress, we hope to master this sound.”
Across its five tracks, Spiralized expands upon the immediate impact of “Bystander.” Balancing a genre spectrum unified under alt-rock, but with the ethereal qualities of shoegaze and dream-pop, the urgent nature of post-hardcore, and the expansive depth of post-rock, dropbear’s debut effort is a captivating turn of blissful noise that suggests a band wise beyond its nascent state. It’s an impressive early expression from the young band, displaying a confidence and chemistry of five former strangers now entwined into each others’ creativity.
“I think the direction in sound is definitely going the ‘90s alternative and shoegaze route, but also eventually incorporating some more modern influences as well,” says drummer Tee Jay. Adds guitarist Joseph Perrier: “I feel like musically, the EP is very pandemic driven. It kind of has a start-and-stop anxiety to it, in my opinion. It also is very influenced by the idea of chosen family and how we all ended up in the band by both choice and chance.” When Perrier talks about dropbear as a chosen family, it’s both the personalities of each member blending together, but also each player’s distinct style and creative approach.
dropbear formed a few years back by guitarists and longtime friends Perrier and Tillman, linked by a love of ‘90s alt-rock, classic thrash and death metal, and a friendship of 20 years. Weathering the pandemic age and all its various pitfalls for creativity and productivity, the band was rounded out, just before COVID hit, by Christian Russo on bass, Rachel Bacon on vocals, and Tee Jay on drums. “It was pretty clear that Joe and Matt just needed some like minded people to share their vision,” says Tee Jay, “and I think finding a group of people that enjoy pop as much as they enjoy metal really helped shape the sound.”
With the lineup locked in, what emerged from sessions at Labyrinth Audio in Peabody would go on to shape the sound and style of this debut EP: five soaring, epic tracks that pulled sonic DNA of varying degrees from each members’ other bands and projects – Bacon in Rio Bravo; Russo in Hammer Bros and Hold This Moment; Tillman in Moons; Tee Jay in Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys, Martyrs, and Lunar Throne; and Perrier’s Unrequited and Some Cities – but also felt distinctively dropbear from the start.
“I was hoping we’d achieve an immersive wall of sound with the record,” says Perrier. “I think we accomplished it. The vibe is kind of what a shoegaze band would have sounded like if they were on Revelation Records in the ‘90s. Hopefully our sound will get even bigger and just as heavy moving forward. We’re a loud band and some of the nuances tend to get washed out a bit. We’re hoping it all comes together with the new songs we’re working on, but these are a great batch of cuts.”
Beyond “Bystander,” the Spiralized EP elevates and crashes with a fevered melodicism across its 19-minute run time. The EP’s second single and featured track, “Sitcom Show,” ascends with a layer of ambient guitars swelling in line with a jangle-rock groove; middle track “The Weight” creates an expansive and emotive guitar-rock nature not unlike Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mayonaise,” a modern cocktail that pulls from Cocteau Twins, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Hum (a band dropbear are often compared to). “Self-Help” explodes out of the speakers with a punk rock ambition, and EP closer “Not the First, Never the Last” chugs along a hardcore riff brigade, with Bacon’s vocals pulling each track out from the depths of the pit into a more ethereal territory. It’s heavy music, but with soul and humanity.
“From a vocalist perspective it's been fun and challenging putting my own spin on the shoegaze genre,” Bacon admits. “I have some songs where I keep the intensity of my voice in the calm and smooth range (more in line with traditional shoegaze), but there are also others where I do a bit of belting and ratchet up my intensity and volume. Purists of the shoegaze genre may not like that I do this kind of vocal variation – but frankly, I think that's what helped put a unique stamp on our holistic sound, creating more or a style of our own influenced by alt rock, and also at times pop punk twists with vocal delivery and melodies.”
Russo concurs, and enjoys taking a slightly different approach in dropbear than he’s used to from other bands and projects: “I’m actually really happy with some of my slower, more rhythmic parts like in the beginning of ‘Sitcom Show. I was always such a thrasher of a bass player. I was never really in a band that would need me to just lay a line down so they can lead over it so it’s fun for me to be a little more complete as a player in this band."
“In my old group, I used to sing songs that maxed out easily at two minutes in length, and I used to scream and sing and lose my voice after all of my old shows,” says Bacon. “I was out of the music scene for a long time – grad school, work, life, blah blah – and I joined dropbear after meeting Joe online in a Boston musicians group. I was really intrigued about joining a nu-gaze, shoegaze, alternative, genre-defying group and met up with Joe and Matt pre-pandemic to jam. When we practiced I was so in awe of their talent and since that initial jam it’s been a fun challenge to use the full extent of my vocal range for the first time in a project. I've had such a blast writing lyrics and melodies and being granted the creative freedom to contribute to the mood and help round out every song.”
The members of dropbear are certainly glad to be in each other’s lives. Beyond countless hours of chats and correspondence over WhatsApp, they now have the Spiralized EP, and plenty more music on the way to show for it. From chance meetings online, to hanging IRL, to sharing a practice space and now a live stage – the dropbear story is one of five creatives joining forces for a singular musical vision that eschews boundaries. And the friendship helps feed the beast.
“I really think our biggest strength as a band,” admits Russo, “is that we all really get along and enjoy being around each other.”
‘Spiralized’ EP artwork:
Rachel Bacon - Vocals
Joseph Perrier - Guitars
Matt Tillman - Guitars
Christian Russo - Bass
Tee Jay - Drums
‘Spiralized’ production credits:
Recorded and Mixed by Keith Gentile at Labyrinth Audio
Mastered by Dan Coutant at Sunroom Audio
Single and EP cover art photos by Carla Keller
Press photos courtesy of dropbear
Art design by Nick Davis/Awesome Machine
Special thanks to Jim Domenici for input and support
dropbear press photo:
The music of dropbear can be heard on:
617 Music Reviews, Belter Radio UK, Code Zero Radio, DKFM Shoegaze Radio, If It’s Too Loud, Marc’s Alt Rock Showcase on Mark Skin Radio, On The Town With Mikey Dee on WMFO, Original Music Showcase on Mark Skin Radio, Restless Music Magazine, Rock And Roll Fables, Screaming For Years, Sunshine Music iRadio, Turn Up The Volume, Volatile Weekly, Your First Listen on KNNZ, and other fine outlets, programs, and stations.
Media praise for dropbear’s debut single ‘Bystander’:
“Tapping into the alt-rawk fuzz of the ’90s, Boston’s dropbear exude an enchanting kind of aura on debut single ‘Bystander’... the sort of Lush meets Hum sonic sorcery that music fans will not be able to resist.” _Rock And Roll Fables
“From the get-go this track is reminiscent of the vibe and atmosphere of Hum’s ‘You’d Prefer an Astronaut’, with reverb-heavy guitars, open drums, and vocals that sit back a little in the mix. It swoons and drips of ‘90s space rock/shoe gaze with a twist of modern alt, each section clamoring to be heard and validated. What’s most impressive is just how well guitarists Joseph Perrier and Matt Tillman musically intersect and intertwine, engaging the ears and creating an enticing dreamscape.” _617 Music Reviews
“‘Bystander’ finds the Boston-based quintet of Rachel Bacon (vocals), Joseph Perrier (guitars), Matt Tillman (guitars), Christian Russo (bass) & Tee Jay (drums) combining their love of posts-hardcore/rock & dreamy ShoeGaze.” _Screaming For Years
“‘Bystander’ has this fantastic ‘90s infused alt-rock sound. It's heavy without being metal (although there are some metal elements in the song) and melodic without being even remotely pop. To me it's sounding like if Hum decided to try out shoegaze and then gave up halfway through. This is a truly impressive debut single…” _If It’s Too Loud
“On this Herculean power stroke metal, shoegaze and classic guitar rock mania (think Eddie Van Halen and Neil Young‘s Crazy Horse) meet with forceful effect, while Rachel Bacon‘s vocals float above the giant raucousness. Bystander is a slow-burning torch, a powerhouse debut with mammoth riffs. Hefty score!” _Turn Up The Volume